Kiss Your Food 💋

Have you ever worked hard on something but felt like you were missing a step? It’s easy enough to find that missing piece if, say, you’re putting a puzzle together and a piece is missing. 🧩

Weight loss can feel like something is missing all the time. You know there’s an important piece you need somewhere to make the process A LOT easier… where there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end to the process.

One of the crucial pieces I was missing in my weight loss was this: I was ignoring how I ate. I didn’t realize this was an important lesson to learn if I wanted to not only lose weight, but to keep it off.

Changing How I Ate

When I was studying to be Level 1 Certified in Exercise Nutrition with Precision Nutrition, I lasered in on something so obvious yet so foreign to me. 🤯

There are three levels of nutrition most people fall into when they want to improve their health: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3*. As a coach, these levels help me know how much my client knows about nutrition, what their goals are, how competent and skilled they are to accomplish those goals, and most importantly, how consistent they are in taking those actions to reach those goals.

Consistency is the central factor that lets me know what level my client is in. You can think of Level 1 as the foundation where you build sturdy and sustainable habits to improve your health, achieve a lean and strong body, and perform well athletically. Each level increases in complexity and difficulty based on your health goals.

For a few years, I thought I was proficient at Level 3, which is extreme body composition… and it’s about where I wanted to stay. The thing is, with my bingeing and constant anxiety around food, I was holding onto my Level 3 goals by a thin thread. 😬 I was getting worse at staying there, and it was because I hadn’t mastered the basics. I had to relearn what it was like to behave at Level 1 and learn how to eat again, especially with the long-term goals I ultimately wanted to achieve for my body and for my health.

Relearning The Basics and Not Making it Mean Failure

I was afraid of “going backwards” and what that might mean… that I was never really capable of reaching my ultimate physique goal. That the athletic, lean figure I really wanted to live my life in wasn’t in the cards for me. 😞

My body made the decision for me. I was not recovering from my workouts because I was using them to stay ahead of my bingeing and overeating episodes. I wasn’t sore anymore because I was constantly in fatigue and some pain. 🤕 I took a leap of faith and went “backwards,” down to Level 1. Besides, what I was currently doing wasn’t working. I asked myself, “What do I want ‘normal eating’ to look like for me? What would it look like if eating was easy?”

I went to my younger self to tell me. 👧🏻 Have you seen how toddlers and kids eat? They know how to eat. They eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re satisfied. They’ll sit with half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for hours on the couch enjoying every lick, bite and taste. They’ll tell stories in their mind as they eat with that peanut butter and jelly sandwich as a sidekick. They truly enjoy the food. Part of the joy of their existence at that age is enjoying food.

I wasn’t enjoying food at my adult age anymore. I was scared of food, I was anxious around it, and I was mad at it. I didn’t want to eat food feeling this way anymore.

The more I read about the human body from the physiological standpoint – meaning, I looked at my body without the drama of my thoughts and emotions swirling around my body’s basic needs – the more I considered that perhaps my body knew what it wanted rather than me imposing on it what I thought it needed based on what I had read on a short Instagram post from a #fitfluencer earlier that week.

Here’s some science about eating:

Did you know that your brain starts the digestive process, not your stomach? 🧠 If you’re hungry – physical or emotional – your brain starts to decrease the intensity and urgency of that hunger as soon as it senses food is on its way to your digestive system.

The problem is, we inhale our food so quickly and with such large bites that our brain doesn’t transmit the signal to your digestive system until you’re possibly a few hundred calories in. And if you’re trying to lose weight, and especially if you want to never gain the weight back, then you must pay attention to how much you’re eating and be deliberate with how much you eat.

Kiss Your Food 💋

Think about your mouth, specifically your lips. Physically (remember, sans thoughts and emotions) your brain registers food coming in as soon as you smell food and when the food hits your lips. Your lips are the first muscles that help your body digest its food properly. 😋

If you’re struggling with overeating because you’re worried about “feeling hungry later,” then have you paid attention to how you’re currently eating your food?

How big are the bites you take?

Do your lips spend any time on the food on your fork before it’s all in your mouth?

How much food do you try to pile on your fork?

Do you let your lips assist in tasting the ingredients on the fork, or do you skip past that step and go straight to your tongue? How does the texture change as you’re chewing?

Is your experience of eating one bite fun, sad, or meh?

This is where you get to change things for the better. 🤩

When you change how you eat, you’ll change how you overeat.👈 Most importantly, you’ll change your attitude about your how you eat and gain some self-trust and agency in the results you get from just changing how you eat. If you’re like I was and you don’t trust yourself around food because you think you’ll just eat it all if left to your own devices, then this step is crucial for you to take.

You can try this at your very next meal, whether it’s a sandwich 🥪 or a forkful of pasta.🍝 Start eating with your lips. Kind of like you do when you slowly enjoy two bites from one spoonful of yogurt, or when you use your lips to enjoy that first sip of your morning coffee. ☕️

You’ve heard of the “mind-muscle connection” that’s important to make when you’re working out and lifting weights, right? When you eat, pay attention to your “mind-lip connection” 👄 so that you help your brain diminish the urgency of hunger.

Why is it important to do this?

Because eating hasn’t been easy for you. If you’re feeling anxious before, during, and after a meal, then eating isn’t easy for you. And it should be. It’s just food. But if your brain is already thinking anxiously about when your next meal is coming and what it might be/could be/should be, then you’re ignoring the food in front you, and you won’t mentally feel full from it, which means you might think that you “should eat more” so that you can stop worrying about whether or not you’re full. Then you eat more, and the more you do this, the more weight you gain, or the harder you make it to keep the weight off. Pay attention to how you eat and start with your lips.

This is what goes through your brain from a purely physical perspective as the food on your fork is coming into your mouth:

  • 👃 Nose: the smell of food signals your brain that food is coming. Retronasal olfaction (smelling of food) is part of the satiety sensation. Keeping food in your mouth longer and smelling the food through your throat as you’re chewing and swallowing lets your brain know (and chill) that nutrients are coming.
  • 👄 Lips: Food touches your lips, and the texture and temperature of the food sends even more signals to your brain [to chill].
  • 👅 Mouth: Food touches the roof of your mouth, your tongue, your salivary glands, your teeth, which then start to chew the food, then break it down and provide even more smells, flavors, and texture changes as the pieces get smaller.
  • The length of time it took you to read these bullet points is a good gauge of how long it takes your brain to register that food is being eaten and transmit what is happening to your hormones. And you’re only on your first bite!

Kiss your food. It’s how you’ll not only have fun with it like you did when you were younger, but you’ll calm your nervous system down because your mind will be focused on the food in front of you rather than stressed about food in the future (which, by the way, only exists in your mind at that moment, not in reality… it’s like being stressed about Christmas cookies but it’s only July🎄).

Let’s Bring Thoughts and Emotions Back In

Having a “better relationship with food” actually means having a better relationship with yourself. Your body knows what to do to take care of itself. It will let you know when it’s hungry, when it’s full, when it’s tired, when it needs to relieve itself 💩, when it has energy to burn off, etc. Your thoughts about those physical signals by thinking they’re bad, wrong, uncomfortable, or inconvenient in some way is causing your overeating.

It sounds counterintuitive, but when you literally slow down how you eat, you slow down your overeating. That means you eventually stop overeating and you’re just eating normally. Instead of letting your mind guide how you eat, let your body do it for you. You can do this in a way and at a pace that feels just right for you. 😊

Here are some ways you can get yourself to that Goldilocks “just right” place where your brain and body are working together. You’ll be eating more normally, you’ll actually enjoy the food you’re eating, and your mind will be more relaxed because it will register fullness because your mind was actually present while you ate that sandwich.

  1. Plan your next meal. 🗓
    Make sure it hits an 8 or above on a scale of 1-10 of satiety and enjoyment (will this meal help me feel physically and emotionally satisfied?). If it’s a 7 or below, change something about your meal until it’s at least at an 8.
  2. Have water with you. Always. 💦
    Take small sips to not only help your esophagus send the food down to your stomach more smoothly, but to also slow down your chewing so that you can taste the food in case you catch yourself eating quickly again.
  3. Go for a 5-10 min walk after the meal. 🚶‍♀️
    Not only will that help your digestive system do its job well, it’ll help calm your mind by encouraging it to allow that meal to be enough. It’ll help remove the confusion you’ve experienced so many times before after you’ve finished a meal but wondered, “Am I full from that? Could I eat more?”

Kiss your food. It’s a small step, but it’s an important one.

Go get that dream body of yours,

P.S. If starting small is difficult for you because your thoughts and expectations are too strong, then please email me or schedule a consult call. Stopping overeating is possible, and it begins with small but impactful steps like these.

* This content is used under licence from Precision Nutrition Inc. and may not be reproduced, transmitted, or otherwise used or reused in any way without the express written permission of the owner. Copyright © 2021 Precision Nutrition Inc. For more information about Precision Nutrition, visit www.precisionnutrition.com.

How to Make an Urge Less Urgent

One of the hardest things for me to understand when I started undoing my urges to eat more food was that I was responsible for creating them. 

Intellectually, I understood that emotions were caused by my thoughts in the moment. But whenever an urge arrived – say, as I was chewing my last bite of sandwich while wishing I had more sandwich to eat – that knowledge disappeared and, internally, I was feeling like a trapped animal. 

Over the course of months and months and lots of coaching on the cognitive side of behavior change, my urges did become less anxiety-filled. But I was still overeating. I wasn’t bingeing anymore because the quantities of food had lowered from 10,000 calories eaten within a few hours to perhaps 2,000 extra calories eaten throughout the day. And with just a few walks a week and a few weightlifting sessions a week, my weight had stabilized. 

Physically, I had successfully found a way to maintain my weight.

Mentally, I still needed to make doable plans because I ultimately wanted to lose weight, not maintain where I was.

Emotionally…. I still felt trapped. That was the real problem. I knew once I solved this, I would be free, and I would never have to worry about food or my weight ever again.

But it was SO HARD for me to not feel trapped around food! No matter how much journaling I did or peer-coaching I got from my amazing life coaching friends, I still felt stuck. It was driving me crazy, so I searched for other explanations to the “feeling” of being trapped.

 

Listen to Your Body to Get Results Faster

It’s 100% true that “what you focus on expands.” I focused hard on finding a non-cognitive approach to my transformation and I found the answer: somatic narrative.

Somatic narrative is the “bottom-up” approach, meaning understanding your body to access your thoughts. “Soma” means “the physical body as distinguished from the mind or spirit,” as per the Dictionary of Psychology. Rooted in somatic trauma therapy, somatic narrative is a body-oriented therapeutic model for healing trauma and other stress disorders. Walking and yoga are examples of body-oriented therapy, did you know? Don’t worry if you’re a binge eater like I was when you hear the word “disorder” – all it means is that part of your behavior is a-little-out-of-order. It does NOT mean that your behavior is wrong or bad. 

If you ever feel “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses, then a somatic approach can break you out of this. You know how an urge can feel unmoving, unyielding, rebellious, and/or stubborn? That’s a fixated physiological (body) state that is solvable.

Before stumbling onto somatic narrative, I almost lost hope and considered that perhaps undoing urges to overeat was an impossible request of the human body and brain. But I kept believing because I had a dream that it was possible, and I wasn’t giving up. There is a way out of suffering, and I knew I wasn’t the only human on Earth who wanted to find ways to end suffering without relying on medication (not to say that prescribed medication isn’t helpful, it absolutely is when diagnosed appropriately; this was just my choice and, honestly, my stubbornness).

Consistently responding to an urge with food creates a habit because it’s an action that is repeated. If you’ve downloaded my free Undoing Urges Starter Guide, then you know some details about this process. A habit is “broken” by creating a new habit, or consistently repeating a different action. But that bridge – crossing from the old habit to a new habit – is where urges live.

I had been adhering to the “top-down” approach for years, and while I made significant changes in other areas of my life (like my marriage, my friendships, my business), it was listening to my body that completed the puzzle for me.

 

My Cutest Teacher 🐶 

You likely know already how amazing the human body is thanks to your experience with training your body, whatever form that looks like. Whether you’re a gym-goer like me, or you train for Spartan races, are part of the “One Peloton” family, or do push-ups in your office every hour-on-the-hour, then you have a level of respect for your body. The more I dove into the nervous system and its impact on our thoughts, the more clearly I understood the trapped feeling I was constantly having. I learned to stop reacting (i.e. eating) because I started feeling it.  What easily made the connection for me was observing my dog’s behavior, Maui.

All animals have emotions. 

When Maui was emotionally excited, his body would naturally respond. His adorable ears would perk up, his tail would wag widely, he would fix his eyes on where he heard an interesting sound, and he wouldn’t care that his upper lip had caught on his teeth. Excitement drove his body to focus and pay attention. 

On the other hand, when Maui was scared, he would lay his ears against his head, his jowls and eyes would lower and look sad, and he would trot quickly to Alan (my husband) or me and lean hard against us. Fear drove his body to move away from the perceived danger and closer to safety. 

I noticed this with all the animals in my backyard. 

🦅 The eager, red-shouldered hawks would swoop down to snatch a squirrel or fly away angrily when Alan or I would walk too closely to the tree they were perched in. 

🐦 The small songbirds would feast on a breakfast of seeds and suet blocks because they were excited about the food. But they would fly away in nervousness or fear as soon as they saw my reflection on the glass door while I sipped my coffee listening to their little chirps. 

It was by observing animals (and, let’s be real, A LOT of research) that I realized that emotions are what help us experience life. We experience our life through our emotions. How else would you know what to run from or move toward in your life? How have your emotions influenced the way you live your life now? 

Humans are more complex emotional creatures than many animals, but the purpose of emotions is the same across species because emotions help drive our actions. This realization helped me understand my own emotions because I began getting curious rather than staying anxious about them, especially the “negative” ones.

I really began to understand this connection when I read the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. An amazing psychiatrist and researcher on post-traumatic stress, van der Kolk cited Charles Darwin on the value of emotions:

For Darwin mammalian emotions are fundamentally rooted in biology: They are the indispensable source of motivation to initiate action. Emotions (from the Latin emovere – to move out) give shape and direction to whatever we do, and their primary expression is through the muscles of the face and body. These facial and physical movements communicate our mental state and intention to others… Darwin goes on to observe that the fundamental purpose of emotions is to initiate movement that will restore the organism to safety and physical equilibrium” (pg. 75).

 

You’ve Gotta Feel Your Feelings

All urges can be undone, meaning they can be pulled apart thread by thread until the rope is no longer strong and thick. That means walking across that bridge step by step by step until you’re all the way on the other side… done with the old habit and living in the new one. This is so important to do if you have urges that are so strong, they’re causing binge eating or overeating in a pattern – either the same foods, same amounts, same events, or same time of day or week.  

Maybe your urges aren’t as scary as mine felt, but if they are, then just the thought of stepping toward an urge might create an urge right then and there. For this reason, I couldn’t “practice” a new habit in my kitchen or in front of my pantry… yet. I had to rehearse it mentally first because that was easier and more doable. I also mentally rehearsed in the mornings because my willpower was strongest in the mornings. Side note: willpower is an untapped resource and one of your greatest strengths, and I teach you how to use it correctly in my Undoing Urges Weight Loss Program. 

I love this exercise from the book Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for trauma and attachment by Pat Ogden. You’re a smart individual, which means you understand that your thoughts are creating your urges. But if you want results faster and you want to change those thoughts but feel stuck, then listening to your body first before untangling your thoughts is the approach you need now.

This work is important because it’s real and permanent. If you feel stuck or want some guidance, then please contact me at support@nicoleterweycoaching.com. There is a way to get from where you are now with your eating habits to where you want to be… where you feel calm and normal around food, whether that food is in front of you or in your thoughts. 

P.S. If starting small is difficult for you because your thoughts and expectations are too strong, then please email me or schedule a consult call. Stopping overeating is possible, and it begins with small but impactful steps like these.

van der Kolk, Bessel (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York, NY.